My intentions were good, my effort was also good considering it was pouring rain all night, I rolled a soaked tent and sleeping bag…….it stopped for just 1/2 hour at about 2pm…….I think that’s when God went and got more water. Cause after that it came down harder. Rolled into Fort William at a little after 5pm, full intentions on getting a room and getting blog 11 posted. Gotta tell ya, I love taking the pictures and would do so even if I didn’t blog. Don’t even mind writing out the sort of daily going on. It is simply that danged WordPress program that I just hate. I worked till just after midnight on the blog, I also had to get my tent and sleeping bag cleaned up and dried out, so that was timing some of my time. Got up early, worked on the images till just after 9 and left the hostel stay. Headed for the Post, and mailed some items to my kids. Then headed to the first open coffee shop with wifi, my intentions were, get the blog up. Sorry, worked right thru till just after 12 noon, finally just folded my crap up and left before I stabbed someone with a coffee stir stick…….WP is pure evil frustration. Nothing would copy and paste, no matter what I done.
The hills to Fort William where indeed demanding, and alot of them. I rode both main road and single track dirt paths, it was wet, lots of puddles and mud. While riding, I could not but be impressed by the hardiness of the Scots and others. While I am cycling, I was able to see dozens out in the same weather as myself. Some carrying huge packs, others obviously on a simpler day hike……but they were out there doing it. The trekkers or walkers as we may call them in USA, can range in age from just late teens all the way into their eighties. Fort Willim couldn’t come son enough, I was pretty cooked by the time I arrived, and yet it really wasn’t that many miles, about 50 from where I started. As many of you know, miles, hills and wet does not a happy man make.
All the time I sat there working on the blog, it was cloudy and rainy, with stiff breeze from the north. 5 minutes after I walked out and left, it was brilliant sunshine. See, even God hates blogging. Sunshine, due north all day except for one 15 minute spell of rain shower. Rode north along a lake, great single lane road, just me and logging trucks. Joined the main road, not really congested, just pay attention. Busy rather than continually worry busy. Road by and looked at the viaduct at Glenfinnan, great looming piece of rock work. But sadly there are scads of tourists now, because they have used this viaduct in 2 James Bond movies and 3 or more of the Harry Potter movies.
Sitting here in my tent, facing due north just to the south of Lochailort, and not 20 feet from the gently waving waters of the North Atlantic. I am but 700 miles from Iceland, and only 20 miles at best from the outer Hebrides, which as you all know is the home of the famous Harris Tweed coats and wollen works. This is a special tweed fabric made with heavy spun wool, much different type of wool. The wool used is very long, and quite coarse, it makes a long wearing and durable piece of clothing. Unfortunately, the coarser tweeds do not pair well with the factory ripped super skinny Jean’s. Just a wee bit to puffy thru the shoulders I am told. How would I know, I am in spandex.
I woke the sun, or it woke me, but I was up fairly early. The tide was low and the gulls were already sweeping the tidal flats looking for an early sea food breakfast. I had a power bar what they call a flapjack here, and a swig of water and hit the road. Up, around and down I went now mostly heading west and a little south. There are logging sites everywhere, even out on the islands, they are cutting and replanting pine, spruce and larch. The tiny road sucks just a wee bit narrower, something Opra can’t seem to do. The bridges, are all marked as weak bridges, and rated for very low tonnage. Quaint rock cottages make up the bulk of the houses you see from the one. Very little farming, pretty much, tourists stays, logging and raising sheep is the main styles of livelihood that I seen. A drop dead gorgeous ride around this block of land that I rode. I simply rode to fast is all. I stopped in Stantian to clean out my food bag as a cleaning was badly needed. A flat of smoked herring fillets in sunflower oil had broke open and that stinking fish was on and in everything. Got that job done with the help of a lady at a little cafe, she boiled water for me to do the cleaning. Plan was to just get down the road a ways and maybe pitch early.
But oh no, I guess God had a different plan for me. I met another cyclist about my age who was coming up the other side of a long grade. Tall fella, in good shape for his age, and easy to talk to as we stood on opposite sides of the road visiting. He is a roadie, a strip down race bike, and long legs that’s a classic roadie. Where ya staying tonight he asks?? Not sure, I just put my tent up where I think it’s safe, I tell him. Nonsense, you can stay with me tonight, so whzy don’t you follow me. So off we go, very tough to keep up, ,but we work at it. Just 7 miles down to the ferry crossing. I am just a few miles south on the other side he says, won’t take long at all. Well, it was 18 miles and my legs are burning and I seen 5 million places where my little tent would have fit perfect.
Finally made it to Tony’s cute little place, and elderly crofters rock house that has been totally redone and modernized, very nice indeed. Tony was as I said an amiable fellow, a retired English teacher. We ate well, with 2 rounds of black pudding which I love. Several rashers of bacon, which by the way is far different than our bacon as it is far meatier than ours. And topped it of with juice and beans a great way to end what was a tiring day for me. Oh, pardon me, I almost forgot to mention that Tony drummed up some very fine apple pie and ice cream which settled within that inner tube shaped device I keep around my waist for occasions just like this. We visited till my eyelids got to heavy and Tony must have noticed, being an awesome host we turned in at about 11.15. Breakfast was a huge bowl of oatmeal, toast, fruit juice and of course coffee. Tony, I didn’t thank you near enough for your kindness and hospitality, I hope someday that you show up in California and I can return the favor.
I got left and began riding. The plan was to get to Oban and make some road choices. But those choices got made early at the Ballachulish bridge. I had 3 choices in front of me, and I took a route that would see me in Taynuilt just in time for a church service. I was the hit of the party, once again, I think it was my cologne. Pastor Tim Telfer gave the service, and soon to be Doctor of Choral Singing, Dr. Peter Jennings walked us thru ancient Scottish Hymns and there historical significance as it pertains to the first edition of the Scottish Salter ( very first published Gaelic hymnal dating 1637). The pastor and his wife Jan, are from southern California. The Doctor and his wife are from Walla Walla, Washington. All told, about 40 in the congregation, cool service. Had my obligatory cup of coffee while I mixed with the parishioners of Taynuilt and then took my leave.
Rode out of town, had checked my map, and began climbing hills. Rold down off the opposite side of the ridge I had climbed and met a couple from Belgium who were also cycling. Had a great visit, learned Alito about cycling in Belgium. They were headed for Oban and some whiskey, are you coming Paul asks me. Sorry, but no. I don’t drink fir one but thanks, secondly I am not going to Oban. Well then he says, that is really to bad because the is road only to Oban. Yes I did, I misread my map and had to cycle back to where I had began. Worked out just fine, my intent was to stop at a flat spot and make myself lunch. Since I went back thru town, I stopped and bought lunch. A fine salmon toast, salad and deep dish apple pie with a grand vanilla sauce. As they would say here…..IT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT.
Took the correct road south, headed out towards Loch Aue. It’s actually quite a ride, very narrow single track which runs a few hundred feet above the loch,s edge. When they build a road here they just scrape a flat spot 6 feet wide and no deeper than needed to make a road. So it follows the natural contours of the Loch,s edge. That means you have some nasty climbs, they will hit as steep as 34% according to one Belgian fellow that met while riding this road. He had an inclinometer mounted on his handlebars. Stopped in Dalavich for tea, it was a late start due to a heavy rain shower. Plus there is a silversmith in this tiny village. To bad ya arrived today lad, the silversmith is headd fer Edinburgh for supplies says Andy at the Dalavich general store. Sat there visiting with Andy, and having tea when along came a family from Calgary Alberta Canada. There third child is going to University in Glasgow.
Rode on south, heading ultimately for Campbeltown, the draw of Campbeltown is like a magnet on my mind, that’s where I will be taking the Ferry over to Ireland. Before any of that can happen thought, I do need to put a new front tire on my bike since the side wall is bulging badly. Stopped in Lochgilphead cycle shop and had new tire installed. I have a room right across the street, at the Old Stag Inn & Hotel right here in Lochgilphead. I have already posted blog 11 and feel like life will be successful after all. My 50 dollar room which was just fine thank you, included a full English breakfast which I ate rather late in the morning. I needed to call and confirm that the Kintyre Ferry was indeed still running since a heavy drinker told me that canceled that ferry. Gotta tell you a rather funny story that happened with this same fella, it would have been better if it could have been caught on camera. So, I am sitting down in the lobby area as close to the router box as I can get so I can have the best internet possible.
This fellow who has had a few to drink, comes my way since the bathrooms are past me. A conversation ensues once he has finished draining his bladder. He asking where I am from, what am I doing……your on a bicycle you say? Yes is my reply, I am traveling by bicycle and camping at night. He looks at me with a fishmongers raised eyebrow, looking down on me where I sit. He leans back to correct his balance and places one hand firmly on his hip for emphasis………his arm comes up and his index finger extends……he is going to make a brilliant point but it’s all happening in slow motion for me and at lightning speed for him I am sure. You know that this sort of nonsense comes to an end when you get to be my age, so enjoy it while ya can lad he says with a great flourishing hand gesture. Curious, I ask him, well how old are you? Lad, I am 58 and all of it……..and what about you he asks.? Well, I turned 63 in March. I swear he about fell over looking at me. He put his hand to his forehead and said more to himself than to me……good God what has happened to me! I could see he was devastated, a broken man. I excused myself and claimed to need to use then men’s room down the hall…….being a loving Christian I limited myself to JUST ONE cartwheel while walking down the hall…..and I never looked back.
The ferry is running, it’s time to roll. Just 51.5 miles is what my map-AP tells me. But I confess, this was a brute of a ride for me. I am camped 4 miles short of making it to Campbeltown. 17 hills of over 12% grade, plenty in the high teens and 20,s. And I am totally done, I will finish the rest tomorrow. By my calculations, there should be 6-8 stiff little climbs left yet. Most of these climbs are several hi dried yards to maybe 1000 with a few switchbacks on the longer climbs. I have a grand camp site, a roadside picnic area, mowed grass, tables and all to myself. I am 100 yards off the shore, my view out the tent is that of the shore of Isle Aaran some 2 miles out in the Atlantic. Can it get any prettier. Praise the Lord for safe roads and good health. We pray for those suffering poor health, and pray thanks to the many Saints who I know are praying for me. Good night and may God bless us all. Campbeltown is a gorgeous little town, and worthy of a visit if you get over this way. The area is pretty enough that Sir Paul McCartney wrote and sang a song about it called Mull’O Kintyre. Take listen to it on you tube.